It seems highly likely that Atlus will make a long-awaited announcement related to Persona 6 this year. Rumors say it's been in development for some time now, and after all the hype Persona 5 and its successor generated, Persona 6 has more eyes on it than ever. Many fans are hoping that Persona 6 will have more similarities to Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal than differences. While it's fairly unlikely that Atlus will make Persona 6 a continuation of Persona 5 Royal's story, there's a lot of valuable things that Persona 5 Royal did that could carry over into a totally new game. Warning: Persona 5 Royal spoilers ahead!
One thing that Persona 5 Royal got a lot of praise for over its predecessor was how much it expanded on the player's free time. For one thing, Royal opened up a lot of new time slots that weren't previously available in Persona 5, giving players more time to gain stats, work on Confidant bonds, and so on. Persona 5 Royal also carried over the first game's work on making Confidants more impactful than the previous Persona games' Social Links. It introduced some really strong new Confidants and gave the player more ways to interact with and work on their relationships with Confidants.
The Confidant system is very likely to carry over to Persona 6 instead of Social Links. The diverse buffs and abilities that Confidants offer is much more engaging than the traditional Social Links, and Atlus is surely interested in seeing what else it can do with Confidants. On that note, it wouldn't be surprising if Persona 6 gives the protagonist a lot more free time to spend in the same way as Persona 5 Royal. Evenings in at Leblanc and extra days added to the schedule gave players a lot more time to achieve all their side goals while still following the plot of the game. Players loved that kind of liberty, so Atlus would be wise to take notes from Persona 5 Royal.
Persona 5 Royal also showed the power of linking the real world and the world of Personas, more than even the original Persona 5 did. Persona 3 and 4 focused heavily on solving supernatural mysteries, but Persona 5 pivoted into a very different type of narrative. The Phantom Thieves' exploration of Palaces, as well as Mementos, made it so that everything they did was about making a difference in the real world. Persona 5 Royal's Palaces showed how dungeons themed after particular vices, sins, or other human flaws work well for the Persona narrative, which focuses so much on the importance of a person's personality and beliefs.
Persona 6 might expand on Persona 5's notion of Palaces with similar dungeons inspired by humanity. Persona 5 Royal's Third Semester Palace was themed after Sorrow rather than one of the Seven Deadly Sins, showing how all kinds of other human emotions, beliefs, and behaviors could inspire interesting dungeons. Atlus might want to explore this format further, even if it doesn't just bring Palaces back. Persona 5 Strikers' Jails show that Atlus is interested in trying things similar to Palaces, so Persona 6 could establish a greater pattern.
Persona 5 didn't depart from franchise convention in that its ending involved fighting a godlike being and surmounting the odds. Persona 5 Royal, however, has a very different true ending. The battle with Takuto Maruki, a normal human with good but misplaced intentions, was much more impactful emotionally than Yaldabaoth. By the time players got to the fight with Maruki, they had spent the whole of Persona 5 Royal getting to know Maruki, his gentle and caring nature, and sympathizing with the ways he's been trodden on, like so many of Joker's Confidants. It was very difficult to see one of Joker's kindest friends become his enemy.
Atlus might have realized that Maruki's narrative means a lot to Persona 5 Royal's fans. If that's the case, Persona 6 might have a much greater focus on human characters over supernatural forces. Atlus could find more ways to pit Persona users against other Persona users, putting godly power in the hands of normal people with earthy desires. While battles with beings like Yaldabaoth are exciting and climactic, Atlus might find that there's more emotional resonance to be had in putting humans at the forefront like Persona 5 Royal did.
Although there's clearly a lot of ways that Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal might be shaping Persona 6, the question on every fan's lips is when exactly the game is going to release. On the one hand, 2021 might be far too soon for it to release, even though it's the franchise's 30th anniversary. Atlus has been working on a lot of games and spinoffs that might have slowed Persona 6 down. On the other hand, it's not hard to imagine that Persona 6's development has been underway for a really long time. Atlus might have been planning to release Persona 6 for this year's anniversary all along.
Another question that's worth answering is how much Persona 5 Royal influence is too much. If Atlus isn't going to commit to a long string of games about the Phantom Thieves, then Persona 6 needs to make sure it doesn't just feel like a reskin of Persona 5 Royal. As much as fans enjoyed that game, there's such a thing as taking too much inspiration. Persona 6 needs to introduce new story threads, interesting mechanics, and unique characters while still borrowing the best parts of the games that came before it.
Even the smallest teaser would satisfy the Persona fanbase for a little while. Just knowing that Persona 6 is on the horizon would totally reinvigorate fans and prompt all kinds of new conversation around the game. Ideally, Atlus' eventual reveal of the game will give fans a good picture of just how important Atlus thinks Persona 5 Royal is to the franchise. The players certainly think that Royal is one of Atlus' finest works, and would be happy to see something similar down the line. Whatever it is that Atlus has planned for this big year, fans will be holding out hope that there's still echoes of Persona 5 Royal in it.
Persona 5 Royal is available now on PS4.